Don’t be intimidated by the menu

We all enjoy eating out once in a while — a social gathering, celebrating a special occasion or not wanting to cook that night. It should be a fun experience that doesn’t compromise your health! It can be challenging to choose healthier options when out at your favorite restaurant. Here are some simple and effective ways to help you successfully order the next time you eat out.

Look ahead at the menu

  • Many restaurants post the menu online and include nutrition information. Some websites include nutrition calculators where you can personalize the menu item to see exactly what the nutrition information is for the dish you order. You even can see how many calories you can save by ordering the sauce on the side or skipping the slice of cheese.

Order first and ask for a box

  • You already have done your research prior to going to the restaurant and know exactly what you will be ordering. Be the first to order. If you are out with a group, you can sometimes be swayed to change your order if ordering last. Ask your server to bring out a to-go box with your meal. You can place half of your entrée in the box to bring home with you.

Ask questions

  • Most restaurants are more than accommodating to make adjustments to their recipes. Ask for a grilled chicken breast instead of fried, for condiments to be served on the side or if a small salad can be substituted in place of the mayonnaise-laden coleslaw. Ask questions as to how the meal is prepared or what ingredients it contains.

Understand menu terms

  • Au gratin, scalloped, buttered, creamed and stuffed indicate foods prepared in cream and butter, which are usually higher in both calories and fat.
  • Au jus, pickled, smoking, cured can imply high sodium content.
  • Steamed, roasted, broiled, grilled and poached are dry heat cooking methods, which are typically lower in fat. Look for these menu terms when trying to select a preparation method.

Eat your meal mindfully

  • Take the time to savor the aromas and flavors of your meal — eat it slowly and enjoy every bite.
  • When dining with others, you may become distracted and eat too quickly. Participate in the conversation and remember to pause and enjoy your food. Try setting your fork down between bites or even eating with your non-dominant hand.

Briana Traut, Registered Dietitian
CentraCare Weight Management